IoT devices were attacked with more than 120,000 modifications of malware in the first half of 2018 – more than triple the amount of IoT malware seen in the whole of 2017.
That’s according to the Kaspersky Lab IoT report, with the cybersecurity vendor warning that the snowballing growth of malware families for smart devices is a continuation of a dangerous trend. 2017 also saw the number of smart device malware modifications rise to 10 times the amount seen in 2016.
The market for IoT devices (also known as ‘smart’ gadgets), and their role in everyday life, is growing exponentially. But cybercriminals are seeing the financial opportunities too and are multiplying and differentiating their attacks as a result.
The danger for consumers who love their IoT gadgets is that threats can strike unexpectedly, turning seemingly harmless devices into powerful machines for illegal activity. This can include malicious cryptocurrency mining, DDoS attacks or the discreet inclusion of devices in botnet activities.
Aware of these dangers, Kaspersky Lab experts regularly review the data collected from various sources including honeypots – decoy devices used to attract the attention of cybercriminals and analyse their activities.
The latest updates are striking – during the first half of 2018, the number of malware modifications aimed at IoT devices registered by researchers was more than three times higher than the number registered in the whole of 2017.
The statistics show that the most popular method of IoT malware propagation is still the brute forcing of passwords – repetitive attempts at various password combinations. Brute forcing was used in 93% of detected attacks. In most of the remaining cases, access to an IoT device was gained using well-known exploits.
The devices most often attacking Kaspersky Lab honeypots were routers (by a large margin). A total of 60% of the registered attempts to attack virtual devices were coming from them. The remaining share of compromised IoT gadgets included a variety of different technologies, such as DVR-devices and printers. The honeypots even registered an attack coming from 33 washing machines.
“Compared to personal computers and smartphones, IoT devices might not seem powerful enough to attract cybercriminals and be used in their illegal activity. However, their lack of performance is more than outweighed by their number and the fact that some smart gadget manufacturers are still not paying enough attention to the security of their products,” said Mikhail Kuzin, Security Researcher at Kaspersky Lab.
“Even if vendors begin to provide their devices with better security now, it will be a while before old vulnerable devices have been phased out of our homes. In addition, IoT malware families are customising and developing very fast, and while previously exploited breaches have not been fixed, criminals are constantly discovering new ones. IoT products have therefore become an easy target for cybercriminals who can turn simple machines into a powerful device for illegal activity, such as spying, stealing and blackmailing.”
To reduce the risk of infection, users are advised to:
- Install updates for the firmware you use as soon as possible. Once a vulnerability is found, it can be fixed through patches within updates
- Always change pre-installed passwords. Use complicated passwords that include both capital and lower case letters, numbers and symbols
- Use Kaspersky Smart Home and IoT Scanner to check your IoT devices for vulnerabilities and infections
- Reboot a device as soon as you think it’s acting strangely. It might help get rid of existing malware, but this doesn’t reduce the risk of getting another infection